The media industry has certainly seen some change over the last few years. Digital distribution has shifted from newsletters to socials to messaging apps, with many consumers now shifting towards news aggregation platforms – apps and websites dedicated to the discovery of short to long-form content, all promising the perfect user experience.
Tech giants like Google and startups like Flipboard are playing an increasingly powerful role in the media, so building out a strong strategy to platform distribution is key. Central to this is choosing the right aggregators to distribute stories to, so with that in mind we’ve rounded up the most important aggregators below. Each can be integrated by simply providing an RSS feed from your website (a standard feature on almost all CMS’s).
Flipboard presents news and feature content from digital publications, photo sharing platforms and blogs in a magazine-influenced format which allows users to ‘flip’ through stories easily. Verified as the fourth highest traffic driver on mobile and tablet for sites in the parse.ly network, Flipboard’s interface was tailored to engage users with a high intent to consume editorial content, which tends to drive good quality traffic back to publication websites. Flipboard monetises through advertising in-app, with ad units and native stories sitting alongside editorial content.
Users are invited to indicate their interests so that Flipboard can group content accordingly. They may also save stories into their own Flipboard ‘magazines’ and access stories liked and read by friends, as the app sources content from Facebook and Twitter.
Feedly allows users to organise news publishers’ RSS feeds, combining them with social media feeds, and funnelling them to suggest content by interest. Stories can be arranged at the reader’s discretion, and the app’s minimalist presentation is ‘optimised for productivity’. Users can search for articles of interest, save them to their ‘Read Later’ tab (which is also compatible with Evernote, Pocket and Instapaper), share articles to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest, and discover new voices on their ‘Discover’ page.
Publishers can decide whether to showcase content through a full feed (full text and multimedia content consumed within the app) or a partial feed (only showing limited text, inviting readers to browse the full story on your website). How you do this depends on your goals as a publisher – the full feed will offer a better experience to readers in-app which could increase brand affinity and open up opportunity to monetise through articles in-feed, whereas a truncated feed offers referral traffic to your website.
Apple News is a news aggregator developed by – you guessed it – Apple, for its iOS, watchOS and macOS operating systems. Users have stories recommended by Apple News’ algorithm according to how in-app habits portray their interests, but the platform also has a human editorial team. It’s their job to populate the app’s Top Stories and Editors’ Picks pages with eye-catching, well written articles.
Apple News is now available on around 1.4 billion devices around the world, and according to Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, some 5 billion articles are read on the app each month. As traffic continues to grow it’s clear that a solid audience is available in the platform.
Some 90 million users are on the app every month and its prominence, user experience and clever use of notifications make it the primary news and content source for many. Its algorithms keep access to this audience democratic and not restricted to top-tier publications. A great example of this is the recirculation area below stories, that regularly recommends articles from small publications directly below content from internationally-renowned news brands.
Full integration requires publishers to deliver stories in Apple News Format, which FlatPlan is able to achieve through an RSS feed.
Google News is Google’s aggregation platform, which ingests publishers’ content via RSS or Atom feeds. It’s currently watching in excess of 65,000 news sources, making it one of the most far-reaching and populous news aggregators available today. Like its competitors, Google News analyses the tastes and behaviours of users to serve them content catered to their unique interests. It differentiates itself from its competitors by providing a timeline of the development of a news story built on content from different publishers. This allows users to track the progress of significant events over time. With over 60 nation-specific editions, Google News is considered one of the finest news aggregators on the market today.
Publishers should know that Google News’ algorithms “uses the best of artificial intelligence to find the best of human intelligence – the great reporting done by journalists around the globe.” In other words, Google News stories feature prominent publisher branding and private monetisation opportunities for publishers, including advertising and streamlined subscription sales. Find out more about editorial control and monetisation in Google’s Publisher Center.
In conclusion, Google News is favoured by publishers as it gives them a fair chance at getting their content noticed, getting paid, and suppressing misinformation.
Kinzen is a news aggregation platform that utilises machine learning to allow a user to take control of their news consumption routine. That’s what they see, when they see it, how much of it they see. Kinzen hopes to “make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.” This occurs as users can respond positively or negatively to news that appears in Kinzen’s topic channels. Also, users can integrate their Twitter feeds, and the algorithm will watch topics they follow.
Unlike other aggregation platforms, Kinzen claim they don’t “rank news and information on the basis of what your social network is thinking. We offer an empowering personal news routine based on the best intentions of members rather than empty clicks, likes or hearts.”
If you’re a publisher, you might rightly wonder why you should spend time integrating with an app that charges users for content you already provide for free. The value of Kinzen is in how it creates a news routine uniquely aligned to the daily needs of its users. This creates enormous value for the app itself, which could lead to regular usage, and potentially, a new swathe of returning visitors to your content.
As for generating revenue for your publication, Kinzen make the following claim on their site:
“We do not rely on advertising. In the Kinzen app, we do recommend publisher content that contains advertising, but take no cut from the revenue. Instead, we are actively working with publishers big and small to develop revenue models based on direct support from members.”
For more information on Kinzen, please refer to this piece, in which we have a chat with CEO and co-founder Mark Little.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop Price: Limited range of channels and controls for free, then €/$5 per month or €/$49.99 per year for premium features Click here to integrate with Kinzen
New on the scene but billed as a competitor to Flipboard, Inoreader is already worth considering working with. Especially when publishers consider the benefits it offers a user that other platforms don’t the same benefits which we expect will see it become a major player. Conveniently, Inoreader has a night mode so users can read content in the dark without straining their eyes. Content can even be exported and sent to friends who don’t use the app. Inoreader, it seems, thought of everything!
Inoreader is RSS-friendly for browsers and devices that run iOS and Android. Fans of Flipboard will find plenty to love in this aggregator app. The ‘Dive’ feature divides content according to the topic, allowing users to build their own feeds based on what they want to see. They’re also able to save content they won’t have time to read until later. All this happens with visual components, usually images, the centerpiece of each listed story. This decision makes Inoreader intuitive and pleasant to work with.
The first click on a SmartNews article always brings the user to the publisher’s site. Publishers may also place advertising in SmartNews’ dedicated platform SmartView, and keep 100% of the revenue. Partner publishers are granted access to SmartNews Insights, the platform’s own online dashboard providing in-depth analysis on traffic, social sharing and key content metrics.
In addition to its intuitive channels such as Top News, Politics and Sport, and its publisher hubs for individual titles, SmartNews boasts its unique Channel Plus feature. Channel Plus allows users to add additional tabs dedicated specifically to content from their favorite sources, giving publishers another way to engage their audience through SmartNews’ simple user interface.
Last Summer, announced that it has reached more than 10 million monthly active users in the U.S. and Japan, and with a 200% user increase year-on-year in the US since its 2014 launch in the country, this user base looks set to increase exponentially.
For full specifications of RSS integration, click here.
Crucially, Pocket differentiates itself by prioritising ‘Save For Later’, a feature that allows users to read content in Pocket offline. As such, Pocket functions as an aggregator run by the user.
Pocket prides itself on making a virtue of long-read material. Founder Nate Weiner told Bloomberg that “Sharing something with a crazy headline isn’t going to make it prominent in Pocket. Our platform just isn’t set up that way. It’s a lot slower”. In 2019, Pocket and its 30 million strong user base were bought by Mozilla, whose Firefox browser now features a prominent Pocket save-for-later button at the top of the window by default. Since this Firefox integration, Pocket has sent publishers in parse.ly’s network 75% more traffic.
Pocket’s Pocket For Publishers dashboard is a suite of free features that help publishers get the most from the app. Trends is an intuitive set of analytics tools that allow publishers to track their content’s progress in the app, Custom Messages allows publishers to create original content that appears whenever an article is saved to Pocket from their site, and Integration allows publishers to add a Pocket button to their own sites and apps, making saving content to Pocket as simple as possible.
Compatibility: iOS, Windows, Desktop Price: free basic version, paid subscriptions, starting at $4.99 per month, cut out ads and boost storage space Click here to integrate with Pocket
The Associated Press’ news aggregator app places an emphasis on local, providing users with breaking news from the Associated Press and hundreds of trusted local sources. Its interface may not be as glamorous as some others on this list, but with good reason: it’s an excellent news source for users who want plain facts laid bare.
Local publishers should take note. Like Apple News, the AP News app aims to spotlight local publishers’ coverage of local stories that go national, as opposed to that of the nation’s biggest news titles. The app seamlessly transitions these stories to publishers’ own sites, boosting traffic.
Users can customise their news feeds to follow specific topics and publishers as they appear in developing stories. Users may also enable push notifications to receive real-time updates from the app, another booster of traffic for publishers. These updates can now also be shared through Apple Watch.
No list of news aggregators would be complete without the inclusion of Microsoft News, formerly MSN, launched in its current iteration in 2018. The coinciding announcement said: “We work with more than a thousand premium publishers and more than 3,000 brands in all major global markets – like USA Today, The New York Times, FOX News, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Le Monde, Die Welt, El País, BBC News, Kyodo News, and many more – to aggregate the best news, videos, photos and other content and deliver it, for free, to people all over the world.”
One of the biggest benefits of the platform for publishers is its curation process. Like Apple News, Microsoft News enlists a combination of artificial intelligence and human editorial curation to surface great content. Currently, Microsoft has in excess of 800 editors working in 50 locations worldwide, to ensure the accuracy of local reportage. Every day, Microsoft News receives around 100,000 pieces of content from its publishing partners. Its AI then scans the content to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content and potential popularity. It presents it for our editors, who decide what content will receive optimal placement on the app’s core pages, like the Top Stories section.
Rob Bennett, Microsoft News’ editor in chief, said the following:
“We believe that a free, well-funded press is a critical part of our social fabric and are proud to partner with the world’s best news brands, offering a business model that gives people access, at no-cost, to trustworthy news and provides a sustainable source of revenue for publishers. In just the past four years we’ve delivered more than $600 million back to our publishers, enabling them to focus on what they do best: quality journalism.”
So, if you’re a publisher wondering how to boost your chances of getting featured, Microsoft News’ editorial team use the words “diverse, credible and well-rounded” to describe the content they look to promote. Diversity is important to the Microsoft News team, who carefully compose the app’s pages daily to include multiple sides to a story and believe considered opinion pieces help a user to better understand a story.
To clarify, each of these apps can be joined by simply providing an RSS feed. We’ve mainly included apps whose user base is already significantly large as to make it a major player in this industry, and one or two new apps who show enough promise to assure they’ll be in that position in the near future.